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Dear Mr. Henry Adam Wood,


I am familiar with your illness, and thank you for reminding me of your tryst with my wife.


This may come as a surprise to you, but I believe I have a first-rate understanding of your condition. In fact, I believe I am the leading authority on your condition, seeing as I am your doctor.


I have told you this on multiple occasions, most perplexingly as you wrote your adultery confession of a letter to me. Your verbal response, a stern nod and some vague mention of packaged biscuits, hardly inspired confidence. I write this letter in the hopes that you might actually acknowledge me as a person, seeing as I am your attending physician.


Sincerely,


Dr. Alfred Tipton


 


p.s. I’d estimate that you have four days left…best of luck with your letters

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EXT. HOUSE - FRONT DOOR - DAY


PHIL, a door-to-door salesman, approaches the front door. He’s in the midst of preparing his briefcase and pamphlets and whathaveyou. He rings the doorbell, straitens his tie, and waits.


RAY, a man in his fifties, opens the door. The look on his face- a mixture of boredom and joylessness- has been his only expression for years. There’s no change in demeanor whatsoever as Ray realizes there’s a salesman in front of him.


RAY: Hey.


PHIL: Hi there, I’m Phil Lang, pleasure to meet you.


Phil aggressively extends his hand, and Ray looks at it for several seconds before reluctantly deciding to shake it.


RAY: …


PHIL: Well I’ll just get straight to the point, then. I’m selling bags.


RAY: What?


PHIL: Bags. Everyone needs them, I’m selling them.


RAY: I can get bags anywhere. This is ridiculous.


Ray starts to close the door.


PHIL: Wait! Wait! You can get bags anywhere, but what do you do with those bags?


Ray pauses for a beat and looks at Phil. Reluctantly, he remains in the doorframe.


PHIL: I sell bags for bags.


RAY: Bags for bags?


PHIL: You put all of your bags in these bags, thus keeping them bagged and orderly.


RAY: And what do you do with those bags?


PHIL: Which bags?


RAY: The bags for the bags.


PHIL: I’ve got bags for them as well.


RAY: Bags for the bags for the bags?


PHIL: Exactly.


RAY: And what about those bags?


PHIL: The bags for bags for bags?


RAY: Yeah.


PHIL: There are bigger bags for those bags.


RAY: Huh.


PHIL: Makes sense, doesn’t it?


Ray sighs and stares at the ground. The self-loathing expression is stronger than ever. Finally, he looks back up at Phil.


RAY: Yeah, yeah I guess it does.


PHIL: It does?


RAY: Yeah, of course it does.


PHIL: Great! What are we thinking then, what’ll you have?


RAY: I’ll have everything.


PHIL: Every-wait, what? Everything?!


RAY: I’ll have everything. How many bags will I be able to fit in these bags?


PHIL: So many bags. How many bags do you have?


RAY: Come to think of it…I don’t think I have any bags.


Phil’s face lights up.


PHIL: Then it sounds like someone could use some bags!


RAY: Not bags for bags, just bags.


PHIL: Exactly! And inside those bags, you can hold a bunch of mini bags.


Ray holds up his hand.


RAY: Phil, Phil, Phil, hold up…you’re telling me there are bags that go inside of bags as well?


PHIL: Of course! The bags that go inside of bags are quite possibly the most important of bags!


RAY: Well now I’ll need to get some things to go in these bags, won’t I?


PHIL: Let’s just start with bags.

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INT. WEIRD TAXIDERMY ROOM


A bunch of taxidermied animals lurk on shelves in a creepy old room. 


HARRY THE SQUIRREL: Hey Richie, you going to the shindig?


TONY THE RABBIT: There’s a shindig?


HARRY: I wasn’t talking to you, Tony, damn it...I was talking to Richie.


RICHIE THE OWL: There’s a shindig?


HARRY: Hell yeah there’s a shindig! You going?


RICHIE: When is it?


HARRY: Starts at eleven, but it probably won’t pick up until midnight. It’s gonna be off-the-walls crazy. I’m so excited, I can’t even feel my skin.


TRUDY THE FOX: We’re starting at ten now. It’s gonna be such an awesome shindig.


TONY: I wanna go, guys!


TRUDY: Keep that up and you won’t be invited, Tony.


TONY: …


HARRY: We’re starting at ten now?


TRUDY: Yeah, because why the hell not?


RICHIE: This sounds like a pretty cool shindig, guys. Harry, Trudy, you guys are great.


TRUDY: Aw, thanks Richie.


HARRY: It’s gonna be insane!


 


LATER


Nobody has moved, what with being stuffed and inanimate. A mistake of a song plays in the background.


RICHIE: Wow guys, this is awesome. This exceeds all expectations.


HARRY: I’m just gonna say it, this is the best shindig we’ve ever thrown.


TONY: Definitely.


TRUDY: Damn it, who let Tony in?!


CUT TO BLACK

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I went for a grim sort of sound, and it kinda snowballed into this super gloomy thing. It's still rough around the edges and repetitive, and I don't know where to go with it...I figure I might as well put it up!

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The dull haze of the city’s night sky lies above me as I meander through the streets, block by block. It smells like diesel and piss and fresh rain, but I’m accustomed to these smells and they simply tell me that I’m home. Small birds sing verse after verse, following me down the rows of trees that each sit like an island in the surrounding sea of concrete. Only the occasional car horn or siren interrupts their song.


I’ve had a lot to drink, and I have the sense that I was with people earlier; names and faces forgotten between two shots and a trip to the bathroom. The steps taken between the bar and the random sidewalk I occupy are implied, not remembered. I don’t trust myself to do anything but walk while my mind drags so heavily and my blood feels so warm.


These city streets seem completely devoid of people, their presence only inferred through the sounds and smells of their creations. I don’t see anyone. I don’t even feel human in this moment, as though I’ve been reduced to nothing more than a presence. A wandering eye in a labyrinth of sensations. The song birds are my guides, and even if we’re only following each other, I know we’ll find an end in time. The starless sky is a blank canvass unto which/


“Where are you going?! This way! This way!”


I turn and see a handful of familiar faces, all looking at me. A city of people appears in an instant, flooding the sidewalks in kinetic currents that completely overwhelm my senses. I stand in shock as my friends watch on.


“How long have you been with me?” I ask.


They laugh. “All night,” one of them replies. His name is Tom, I remember now. He’s a good friend of mine, and I feel ashamed that I could forget such a person.


“Are you alright?” asks Ashley. My memory is slowly returning like fog on a window.


The birds have stopped following me, and their songs are consumed by the conversations of passers-by and car horns. The moment is over. I nod, not knowing if I’m acknowledging my friend or myself, and follow their lead into the night.

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Dear Mr. Kenneth Milton,


I have always prided myself on the excellence of my written correspondences, and it is a shame that this letter will be among the last of such exemplar pieces of postage. I hope you take into consideration, then, that such an expense of my time was spent on this letter with you in mind.


For it seems, my dear Kenneth, that you won that old bet from our youth; to my greatest displeasure, my doctor has informed me that I am not immortal after all. In fact, he is under the impression that my condition is one of some gravity, and that my affairs ought to be put in order post haste. It has been some time since our last exchange, and I sincerely wish that this was sent under less morbid or mortal conditions.


I wish to present you with a final confession and an invitation, both of which I feel are equitable and just in their nature. I have thought long and hard about how to articulate these truths, and I feel that the following is a near flawless expression of them:


I think we can both agree that our friendship was bound by the strings of gambling. Whilst I may have been the first to engage in such a vivacious and profitable endeavor, you too were ensnared by the allure of adrenaline and coinage. While I was always confused by your stubborn adherence to rules and a general reliance on chance, there was a silly (albeit immensely stupid) nobility to it. It also cost you all of your savings and your family estate, if I am not mistaken.


And I can say with some confidence that I am not mistaken.


For indeed, it was in a round of poker between the two of us that you conceded all of your worldly possessions to me. Entrusted with your fortune, I immediately left the premises and made myself comfortable in your former estate. While I believe there were a handful of misunderstandings between yourself and my guards, we have not enjoyed more substantial contact since then.


The memory of that evening, as exhilarating as it was, has always been polluted with guilt and regret. For as you may or may not know, I immediately fired your old maid. Yes, the very one who raised you, and of whom you always spoke of so kindly. She simply looked grotesque and reminded me of a crusty dried apricot, which is what I called her in lieu of her name (which regrettably I could never remember).


I can’t imagine the guilt you feel, knowing that if you'd simply cheated as I had, your maid would still be gainfully employed. However, since the estate was so dear to you and your crusty maid, I will allow you both to be buried on the premises upon your own deaths. While I would never dream of being buried in such a foul place, I’ve always felt that a small, humble cemetery would increase the property value and give me a fairer price on the market.


Hope you are well, and if not, know that a moderate estate view is on the horizon.


 


Sincerely,


Mr. Henry Adam Wood


p.s. If either (or both) of you have already died, then congratulations! You are well on your way to a proper estate burial.


p.p.s. Seeing as we never agreed upon a sum for the aforementioned mortality bet, I have decided on the payment myself. Attached to this letter is a parcel containing my favorite variety of sandwich; a bloody reuben. I sincerely hope it is still edible by the time you receive it.

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The old book was a collection of obscure paintings, its pages yellowed and bent at the corners, its spine broken. It’d sat in a corner for years. The cover’s face had been reduced to an amalgam of murky outlines and forgotten forms. Time had made its mark on it. But Mark’s little eyes were glued to it, and he seemed stunned when his mother placed it on his lap.


“Is this for me?” he asked.


“Do you like it?” she replied.


He nodded enthusiastically. His seven year old mind remained fixated on the antique book as he felt his mother wrap her arms over his shoulders from behind. She opened the first page delicately, as if the whole thing could disintegrate if it was held with anything less than reverence.


Mark leaned in as the first painting revealed itself.


It was a flock of small birds being watched by an old man, a birdwatcher, but the style was unlike anything Mark had seen before. Shadows hugged the watcher and the watched, both of whom were kissed with the faint glow of a sunrise. Every contour, every curve was bathed in a union of light and dark that left Mark wide-eyed with wonder.


“How did they make this?” he asked.


“A painter made it with paint and a lot of thought,” replied his mother. “It took him a really long time.”


Mark ran his fingers along the rough contours of the page, as though he was feeling beyond the old paper and touching the brushstrokes themselves. He leaned in closely, until he could feel his own breath bouncing off the book, back onto his warm cheeks. His eyes carved trails through the imagery, moving between the nimble wings of the birds and the old man’s haunted expression.


“How do you work on the same painting for really long?” he asked. “How do you do that?”


“You have to really believe in what you’re making,” replied his mother.


“I don’t know if I could do that,” he said.


“Do you want to look at the next one?” she asked.


He shook his head. “Let’s just look at this one.”


 


That night, he dreamt more vividly than he ever had before. He found himself on a branch of a broad, knotted tree, full of leaves and fruit and birds and all kinds of life. The gnarled bark felt smooth and worn, and its grooved patterns seemed to change with every second glance. He leapt from branch to branch, eagerly ascending through the crooked arms to the tip of the tree. He looked out above the leaves and branches, and gazed out at…nothing. It was completely dark beyond the branches, darker than his bedroom at night without a nightlight. There was nothing but him and the tree.


Now, he was face to face with an old, bearded man, weathered by time not just physically, but also in other ways. He moved like he was carrying something very heavy. The wrinkles on his face reminded Mark of the strange patterns of the tree bark, and his clothes were bright and luminescent. He pointed upwards with a spindly finger.


“Look up, Mark.”


The old man’s words didn’t sink in immediately, but Mark’s eyes slowly turned skyward. Above him, looming closer than he’d ever seen, was the Sun. Its corona hung around it like a golden veil, within arm’s reach of his quivering fingers. Solar flares erupted from the swirling plasma, dancing wildly outward into the void of the cosmos. The tree and ground had disappeared beneath him; it was just Mark, the Sun, and the empty space. He reached out to touch the auroral sheath in front of him, his arm outstretched, his eyes burning with amazement.


“Time to get up, honey.”


He felt a familiar kiss on his forehead, and the fiery dream evaporated into the ceiling of his bedroom. It was time for school.


 


“Mark, that’s great!”


Mrs. Hill’s gaze had made its way to Mark’s illustration. He was busy at work on a crayon drawing, largely ignoring the other two kids at his table. Goldenrod and dark green unfolded in vibrant coils; waxy tendrils reaching out into the black scribbles that dominated the edges of the page. Mark looked up at his teacher, but only for a moment, before turning his attention back to the drawing. With a couple of carefully placed orange markings, he was finished.


“Can we put it on the wall?” asked Mrs. Hill.


“I wanna take it home with me,” replied Mark with a smile.


 


“I’ve got it I’ve got it I’ve got it!” screamed Harry, triumphantly. He sprinted ahead of the other boys, ahead of Mark, with his prize in tow. The bright, colorful page rippled in the breeze as he flaunted his victory, and he scrambled up a small ridge above his pursuers. He turned back and grinned at the boys below, his silhouette contoured by the sunset behind him.


“What’re you gonna do with it?” asked one boy.


“You gonna keep it?” asked another.


“Give it to me!” yelled Mark, his eyes glazed with tears. “Give it to me! It’s mine! I made it! Give it to me right now, Harry!”


Harry grinned, his eyes fixated on Mark. “No, I’m gonna tear it apart.”


 


Mark sat on the couch, his eyes shut closed. He clutched his backpack in his arms and wrapped his fingers around the zipper. The radio played in another room, and for a while, that was it. He let his mind tiptoe around memories of his drawing, how Mrs. Hill had been so impressed with it, how proud he’d been. But he managed to pull himself back before he fell into the fantasy completely; he couldn’t hide from the mangled pulp in his bag.


He felt his mother’s hand on his shoulder.


“What happened?” she asked.


He shook his head. Her hands moved from his shoulder to his backpack, and he couldn’t find it in himself to stop her as she unzipped it. She sighed as she caught sight of the ruined illustration.


“Who did this?” she asked. “Did you do this?”


“No.”


“Who did this?” she repeated.


He remained silent, content to sulk and bite his lip. She left the room, taking the backpack away with her. He waited silently. She returned with the book she’d given him the night before, gently setting it on his lap. He smiled with delight as his mother sat down beside him.


She grinned, “Let’s see what’s on the next page, then.”

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It would be difficult to convey exactly how this came about…it was hilarious, amazing, and bizarre. I think what’s really important is bringing up the people involved. Its origin came from Steph [theshuttersmith], Madisen [madisenward], and Koura [kouralilly], and ideas were thrown around between Koura, Katie [musing5225], and myself. Koura and I wrote it, and well, brace yourself…for Brutal Noodles:


INT. STUDY - NIGHT


The room is cozy, refined, and full of books. MADISEN, a totally awesome hitrecorder, sits in an armchair. He’s extremely well dressed and has a refined sensibility to him. He looks directly at the camera. We slowly move in to a close up on him as he addresses us.


MADISEN: There is one time-worn evaluation of skill, strength, and cunning that exceeds all others. A ritualistic gauntlet known for its unforgiving hardship and meager rate of success. A solemn test of fortitude and tenacity, bathed in the tears of the fallen. I am, of course, talking about the rite of Brutal Noodles. Few see it coming, fewer remain standing by its end. Brutal Noodles can descend upon anyone at any time. Let us now turn our attention to unsuspecting artist Steph, who will soon be ambushed by the ultimate noodle challenge. 


[tight on Madisen’s face]


She only needs to eat one bite…of…NOODLES!!!


CUT TO CRAZY VISUALS ON SCREEN with text:


BRUTAL NOODLES


 


INT. STEPH’S KITCHEN


Normal, unremarkable kitchen. We see STEPH, an equally awesome hitrecorder. She stands over a boiling pot of water and drops in a bunch of noodles. As soon as the noodles hit the water, Madisen appears in a puff of smoke behind her. He seems less composed and more fickle…he’s got a wild card vibe. Psychedelic phenomena start creeping into the room upon his arrival, with colors and lights appearing and vanishing in a mesmerizing pattern.


Steph stays collected and cool throughout the entirety of the encounter, shrugging off the bizarre turn of events. She turns around.


MADISEN: Steph dear! So glad to see you!


STEPH (unphased): Who are you? What’s going on?


MADISEN: Oh, you know, the usual. You’re charged with surmounting the greatest challenge known to humanity. Brutal Noodles await, Steph, ARE YOU READY?


STEPH: What? What are you talking about? Who are you?


MADISEN: I’m Madisen, it’s a pleasure to meet you.


He shakes her hand with more invigoration than necessary. She jumps a bit at his enthusiasm but shakes his hand in return.


MADISEN (cont): LET THE BRUTAL NOODLE CHALLENGE BEGIN!!!


Madisen laughs maniacally, and presses a button on his tie. Whatever level-headedness we previously saw in him has vanished. The psychedelic effects escalate even more, and the room seems to spin in every direction. We see a close up of Steph’s face barely reacting to the craziness, a flash of Madisen and then the spinning room around her.


With a flash of light, a cooked bowl of noodles appears in Steph’s hands. Still seemingly unaffected by the absurdity surrounding it, she starts to reach for a fork, but the noodles come alive and jump away from her grasp.


STEPH: Huh.


The bowl hovers in front of her. She considers it, hands still in front of her, otherwise unresponsive.


MADISEN: All you must do is take a single bite, Steph. That’s all you must do to claim noodle victory!


Madisen does a little jump almost dance step. Steph is only mildly interested, still not quite ready to play though. She looks up at Madisen.


STEPH: And what happens if I lose?


MADISEN (giddy): Then I steal your noodles! All of your noodles will be mine!


He giggle-laughs and rubs his hands together.


STEPH (without missing a beat): Oh you’re gonna end up in a hospital ward, buddy.


MADISEN (snaps to a tense face as quickly as he had started laughing): I wouldn’t get too comfortable yet!


Madisen starts to smile again and we cut to Steph. The noodles have sneaked under Steph’s nose, forming a ‘noodle-stache’ of sorts…Madisen cackles at the sight. Steph reaches to grab the dastardly strands of tasty, but they’re too quick and dash away from her face, hovering a few feet beyond her grasp.


MADISEN: Way too slow, dear, WAY too slow! These aren’t your typical benign noodles, you’ve never encountered noodles this deliciously diabolical before! Don’t underestimate them unless you’re in the mood to fail!


Steph makes a lunge toward the noodles, ignoring Madisen, but she finds her feet stuck in elastic-y strands of noodle-ish trickery. As always, Steph doesn’t lose her cool for a second.


STEPH: What the…?


MADISEN: Ah, yes, the sticky noodle trap…an innovative concoction of faux-noodle subterfuge. Such are the machinations of the Brutal Noodles.


Steph glares at Madisen- the closest she’s come to losing composure- and tries dashing toward the noodles once again. The noodles flee, but Steph manages to herd them around Madisen. She sprints in circles around Madisen, chasing the noodles in a seemingly fruitless race.


MADISEN: Well what on earth is this? Circles? This will do you no good, Steph! You need to up your…


Madisen notices that in her circular motions, Steph’s speed has surpassed the motion of the noodles, as they tried to cut closer and closer to catch up, they have wound themselves around his legs, and are slowly making their way upwards as they still try to flee from Steph.


MADISEN (cont) (nervously scared but inappropriately jocular): Oh you are clever! That’s good, that’s enough! You’ve made your point. I’ll let you have a noodle bite if you just…


The noodles have bound his legs…his fear becomes more evident.


MADISEN (cont): Steph? STEPH? WHAT ARE YOU DOING STEPH?! STEPH, THIS IS JUST CRAZY!!!


The noodles wind their way up Madisen’s torso, binding his arms to his sides, until only his head is free. Content, Steph walks over to a lone noodle quivering on the table. It lifts itself up like a searching snake; she and it stare at each other for a moment in a tense standoff. After a few beats, the noodle tries to flee, but Steph is ready and leaps up, catching the noodle in her mouth. She slurps it up spaghetti style.


CUT TO BLACK


TEXT ON SCREEN: IMPECCABLE NOODLE VICTORY

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Earth, 2021:


Astronomers observe a large asymmetrical asteroid, approximately the size of Madagascar, as it passes by Mars. In the coming weeks, the scientific community confirms that the object is on a collision course with Earth. A projected doomsday, approximately 18 months away, is set.


The people of earth, while stunned at first, come together and form a contingency plan to survive.


And by ‘form a contingency plan to survive’, what I really mean is ‘form a colossal drinking habit’.


4 months to collision:


INT. MISSION CONTROL ROOM Almost everyone is hammerdrunk. Most team members have their own personal bottle of hard alcohol, and drinking strait from the bottle seems to be the preferred method. With that said, everyone is sitting at their desk, concentrating as best they can on the mission.


KOSTOV is in charge, with SINGH, FISCHER, and PETERSON nearby. There are other mission control team members as well, but most of them are unaware of the conversation/what's happening. SINGH is the only one who seems sober.


SINGH: Initiating part three of Operation…Operation…


PETERSON: Say it! Say it!


KOSTOV: You lost the bet, you lost the bet you have to say it!


SINGH: (sighs) Initiating part three of Operation Singh’s a Super Asshole.


Everyone else laughs.


PETERSON: The world is going to be saved by Operation Singh’s a Super Asshole. Your name will be immortalized forever, Singh!


SINGH: Yeah…great. Thanks guys.


KOSTOV: So how’s that whole initiating thing going, Singh?


SINGH: It’s done, Kostov, went well. The warhead trigger is primed and targeting systems are ready for an active lock. Part four’s on you, Fischer.


Fischer is an absolute mess, barely capable of speaking.


KOSTOV: You alright, Fischer?


FISCHER: I…might have had a bit…too much…


KOSTOV: How the hell are you going to save the world when you’re this drunk, Fischer?! You’re supposed to blow up an asteroid with a nuke and you’re absolutely poisoned with alcohol!


SINGH: I mean, you guys are pretty drunk too…


KOSTOV: Don’t be a goddamn prude, Singh. The world’s about to end, so have a drink.


SINGH: I thought we were saving the/


KOSTOV: Have a friggin’ drink, Singh!


FISCHER: Oh…whoops.


SINGH: ‘Whoops’?!


KOSTOV: What’s up, Fischer?


FISCHER: I think I missed.


PETERSON: You missed?


SINGH: You what?!?


FISCHER: Yeah Singh, I missed! I got close but I missed it by like, an inch, and now...it’s…uh…


Fischer passes out, his/her forehead leaning on the computer monitor.


KOSTOV: Fischer? Fischer?! Passed out like an amateur!


SINGH: We missed the asteroid. The one that’s going to kill us. The one the size of Madagascar. What the hell, guys?!


PETERSON: I think this is a good time for constructive criticism. Let’s have a constructive circle and work out what we could improve on.


KOSTOV: Yeah, yeah that’s a good idea Peterson. Good initiative.


SINGH: Could I have a swig of something?


PETERSON: Vodka, whiskey, or sweet, sweet moonshine?


SINGH: I honestly don’t care.


Everyone starts drunkenly moving chairs into a circle.


KOSTOV: Let’s make it a constructive drum circle. If we’re going to discuss the apocalypse any more, we should at least throw in a few drum solos.


Singh grabs a bottle of vodka and sighs.

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When the person you love most has a biological time bomb embedded in their skull, you start to reevaluate things. That may be a slightly dramatic way of saying ‘the love of my life has an inoperable brain tumor’, but really, that’s more or less how I see it. And it’s a serious reevaluation. Everyone who’s happy, and normal, and tumor-less…which is to say most people…they become total pricks. When I hear someone complaining about something, and it’s not a killer tumor in their head, I find myself compelled to scream at them. I don’t, because that’s what smothering your emotions is for, but I want to. I really, really want to.


Let me tell you something, the world is a trap. It’s a Chinese finger trap attached to a bear trap attached to something worse, and we’re stuck in the middle of all of it. I think I need to tinker with that metaphor a little, but the message holds true; everything on this planet is out to get us, and hell, we’re not even safe in our own bodies. So when we decided to get as far away as possible from our former job, our neighbors…everything…I knew exactly what to say.


“Just don’t pack any of your shitty Bread albums, Wyatt.”


The next two days we just drive. There’s something relaxing about driving with nowhere to go, just driving for the sake of it. You focus more on the things around you, on the sights and smells and the air cascading through your fingers. The sky seems bluer. 


We don’t really talk much, even at the cheap hotels we stay at. Talking leads to crying, and so somewhere along the line I took the initiative and just stopped talking. I haven’t been sleeping a lot. When I do sleep, I have a recurring dream where Tom smothers me with a stuffed giraffe from my childhood. I’m sure there’s all kinds of personal symbolism piled in there, but I’m content to ignore it as completely as humanly possible. After all, if I’m going to be thinking about anything, it’ll be thinking about not talking to Wyatt.


We pull into a diner in the middle of nowhere…I’m not even sure what state we’re in. If it wasn’t made in the fifties, they did a damn good job of making you think so. A couple of plastic, life-sized cows are propped by the door, greeting us with blank stares as we enter. Wyatt grins- a rare site these last few days- and we sit ourselves in a cushy red booth.

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A: This gnocchi is delicious! How’s your stew thing?


B: Tasty. Stewy. Just how I like my stew.


A: Sounds dirty.


B: It is. I’ve been meaning to come here for a while, you know. I must’ve walked by here a hundred times, and I always look in and think ‘I should go here some time’.


A: It’s my favorite. You’ve been missing out.


B: Sorry, what?


A: What? I just said you’ve been missing out.


B: Oh…Wait, wait I’m sorry…I still didn’t hear you. What did you say?


A: I said this place is my favorite and you’ve been missing out.


B: Oh…


(pause)


A: You still didn’t hear me, did you?


B: I’m sorry, I didn’t. I don’t know what it is…this place isn’t loud and you’re talking at a normal volume. I just can’t hear anything you’re saying.


A: Do you have a hearing problem?


B: A…oh, a hearing problem? No, no my ears are fine. I’ve got great ears. I don’t know what’s wrong, really. Maybe this place just has weird acoustics.


A: Don’t you go insulting this place now! This is the perfect restaurant, and I’m sure the acoustics are fine.


B: Okay, okay, sorry, sorry. I don’t know why I brought the restaurant into this. Wow, this got derailed quickly!


A: Yeah, it did. Your ears aren’t going to fall off or something, are they?


B: No, I don’t think so. It would come as a shock, anyway.


A: Okay, just wanted to check. So the food’s good, though?


B: The food is delicious! I’ve been missing out!


A: …


B: I said I’ve been missing out!


A: …


B: You still didn’t hear me, did you?


A: …


B: Do I get to go on a verbal rampage about your ears now?


A: …I mean…


B: ...Yes?


A: Shit. This place has awful acoustics, doesn’t it?


B: …What?

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Xanlee and I decided to write a series a little while back, and, well, here’s part 1! 


Waking up to Jefferson Starship is, in all likelihood, the most prolific and enduring experience I could ever hope to be graced by. Then again, Wyatt fell asleep with me last night, and I’m all kinds of sunshine and unicorns right now. If I awoke on the couch of my neighbor Fran Perchinsky, being drowned by her legion of cats, I’m sure I’d be having similar thoughts about how prolific and enduring it all was. But of course I feel this way, I mean, I woke up next to Wyatt this morning.


The is the first time he hasn’t left around midnight. It’s the agreed upon protocol, what with nosy neighbors and all…we’re cautious. Until Freddy Mercury comes out of the closet, I think that’s where we’re stuck. We work together, so we have a good cover story if we need it. Something about theorizing new ways of reducing Mach tuck on future aircraft. No, neighbors, there certainly are not two men having sex with each other next door. Certainly not.


Wyatt listens to Bread’s ‘Baby I’m A Want You’ as I make pancakes. I would’ve preferred the usual Pink Floyd, but the fact that we’re in the same apartment in the morning negates my usual snark. We normally end up having to do pancakes for dinner, and having them at their culturally designated mealtime is new to us both.


I don’t know it yet, but today is going to be the single worst day of my life. Everything I love is about to crumble into a sinkhole of total self-loathing and helplessness.


We’re rocket scientists, both in the literal and figurative senses of the word. Wyatt’s a romantic about it, which I find equally un-relatable and irresistible. Wants to shoot into space some day; while I never cease to make fun of him for it, I’d give him the chance in a heartbeat if I could. Granted, given the scientific progress as of late, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a possibility in the next year or two. 1980 at the latest.


My parking space at work faces a big old rhododendron, and nothing infuriates me more than seeing someone else parked in my parking space. Something about greeting the workspace with a face-full of rhododendron just sets the right tone for the rest of the day.


Tom wants to see me in his office. Tom’s my boss, and his lack of humor is offset by his brilliantly flamboyant tie collection. Wyatt and I debated for a long time whether Tom played on our team, but we’ve mostly decided that Tom is on team strait. Mostly. Wyatt is already in Tom’s office, and I sit down next to him.


“I don’t know how to cushion this,” says Tom, “so I’m just going to say it. Wyatt, Dennis, you’re both fired.”


I laugh. Tom apparently does have a sense of humor. I stand up and go to walk out, and turn to see Wyatt and Tom still seated.


“Wait, are you serious?” I ask.


“Very serious,” replies Tom.


I take a seat.


Tom continues, “Your work on radiative heat flux? Some pilot in New Mexico almost got killed based on those calculations, and half the aerospace community has looked over your work and concluded its garbage. All of it.”


“All of it?” asks Wyatt, still hoping for a silver lining.


“All of it. Garbage.”


I plead, “What about/“


Tom interjects, “Garbage! It’s all garbage! I’m sorry, but you need to pack your things.”


Wyatt cries, “You can’t be serious!”


“I’m perfectly serious!” replies Tom. “I’m really, really serious. Your theories are garbage. You two are a joke.”


Everyone looks at us as we pack. For me, it takes forever; I’m a sucker for nicknacks. Wyatt is much more visibly shaken than I am, and he’s fighting back tears. I’m more the bury-your-feelings type, gay inclinations aside. Can you shove the elephant in the room under a rug? I figure it’s worth a shot. I don’t even get to look at my parking space rhododendron as I get ready to leave.


“Wait,” says Wyatt.


I don’t want to talk about anything right now, as I’m busy repressing the last twenty-odd years of my life, but Wyatt is stubborn about confronting feelings. I turn and face him.


“I have something to tell you,” he says. “I have a doctor’s appointment and I think you should come.”


The very worst moment of the worst day of my life is about to unfold.

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